Muscat: Muscat Football Academy’s (MFA’s) new term is a great opportunity for football lovers who are looking to forge a career in sport, or are aspiring to get into university via a sports scholarship, according to Head Coach Chuck Martini.
“We’ve had two of our major stars go and play abroad: they may be only 10 or 11 years old, but clubs are now taking on children as young as that,” said Martini, speaking exclusively to the Times of Oman.
“One of our goalkeepers, Mees Eppink, is now pursuing his dream at Ajax in the Netherlands, and Tariq A’Saadi, who left two seasons ago, is actually about to sign for Manchester City,” he said.
“We also have Alejandro Espinosa, who is now playing collegiate football and studying in the United States via a scholarship with us,” he added. “I do believe we can offer a path to parents whose children are serious about football. It’s not just about spending money to join an academy, but they can eventually use this as a means to education, or if they show enough promise, become professionals.”
With their new term beginning on September 10, registrations are already underway, as Oman’s first private football academy looks to forge another successful season.
“We’ve got three locations this season: PDO, Royal Flight School and the Sultan School.”
“Our elite centre this year is at the Royal Flight School, and we’ve also got a different format this year, because players will be training four times a week, and with the matches on Friday, they’re going to be doing this almost full-time.
“Our elite centre begins sessions on September 10; we have our first session at the Sultan School on September 11 and PDO’s first programme is on the 12th,” added Martini, a former Leicester City and Morocco international goalkeeper. “We are trying to mirror academies in the U.K., where the children train four days a week and then play matches on a Friday, so it’s almost full-time football.”
“So far, responses have been good,” added Martini, a former manager for non-league sides Waltham and Hersham FC, and Godalming Town. “Everyone seems to have enjoyed what we’ve created so far. Our elite centres are invitation only, so I will need to invite them into this programme, and the Sultan School has always been our main branch, but a lot of people are still away on holiday and a lot of the players last season are coming back.”
A highlight of MFA’s season is the Mundialto Tournament—a global youth football championship which sees players from clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund and Valencia, among others, travel to Barcelona in Spain every Easter. MFA have been Oman’s only representative so far, and will be looking to make a mark this year as well.
In addition, the team will be travelling to the neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE) twice this year: once for the Abu Dhabi Cup, and then for the UAE Cup, which is to be held at the Dubai Sports City.
Although registrations are steadily picking up, Martini, who was also head goalkeeping coach at AFC Wimbledon’s academy, predicts a surge around Eid, when many of his regular students and potential new recruits return from their summer holidays.
“I would imagine that we would see a surge in numbers around Eid, because a lot of the parents and students are still on vacation, and their schools only open after that,” he said.
“The last week of August is normally our last week of registration, but I think that because of the Eid holiday, a lot of families have decided to prolong their vacation.”